The shape of your beer glass affects your grip, of course. But it also affects the way that the bubbles in the liquid behave. And now it turns out that beer glass shape can even influence how fast you down your alcoholic beverage.
To see how glass shape affected drinking speed, 160 self-described social drinkers watched a nature documentary while they consumed refreshments from glasses with either straight edges or curved ones. The glasses with curved edges were larger at the top than the bottom, so they held a greater volume in the top half. And researchers found that when drinking beer from these glasses, subjects finished 60 percent faster than drinkers who used straight-sided glasses.
When you pour yourself a nice pint of Guinness, there’s only one thing running through your mind, right? As the brew settles, why do the bubbles sink down instead of rising up?!
Okay, so the “Guinness cascade” may not have been your primary concern, but the gravity-defying bubbles did intrigue a few mathematicians at the University of Limerick, who explored how the shape of the Guinness glass affected the flow of bubbles in an article they posted at the pre-print arXiv.
Credit: Alexander & Zare
The Guinness cascade is not a new phenomenon, and a basic explanation already exists. All things being equal, the bubbles of gas in a liquid like soda or beer rise because gravity exerts more force on the denser liquid around them. But it turns out that where the bubbles are in the glass makes a big difference in their behavior. The bubbles near the walls of a container stick to the glass, which drags on them and slows their upward motion. The bubbles in the center of the cup, in contrast, can rise unimpeded. As they move, they exert a slight drag force on the surrounding liquid. This motion forms a column that circulates the beer in the center of the glass upward, while forcing the beer—and the bubbles—along the wall to sink down.
In fact, this effect happens in other liquids as well, but in a glass of Guinness, the cream-colored bubbles stand out particularly clearly against the dark drink.
Heads turned last year when Japanese scientists announced that heating iron telluride in red wine did wonders for its conductive ability. (They are mysteriously quiet as to how they decided to do this experiment.) Sake, white wine, and other alcoholic drinks were also, uh, sampled, but none had the vigor-inducing properties of a full-bodied red.
They’ve now taken the matter further and tested which kinds of red have the strongest effect. Their results, posted on the ArXiv and summarized in the figure above, indicate that the winner is a wine made from Gamay grapes, a 2009 Beaujolais from the Paul Beaudet winery in France. Beaujolais are known for being acidic wines, and indeed, when the researchers did a component-by-component breakdown of the wine, testing to see which of the substances in it was the one having the effect, they narrowed it down to tartaric acid.
The acid in question.
To test their findings, they mixed tartaric acid with water and found that the mixture did boost iron telluride’s conductivity. But not as much as wine itself, which indicates there’s something else in the wine that’s contributing to the effect.
Neat, eh? There’s still a lot up in the air, though. How, exactly, does wine do it? While we wait for the scientists to figure that out, we’ll take another bottle of the Beaujolais, thanks.
[via the ArXiv Blog]
A paper that explores the unlikely coupling of warm wine and the electric properties of iron is currently making its rounds on the media circuit—leading us to conclude that people get excited about science when there is alcohol involved.
“Drunk scientists pour wine on superconductors and make incredibly discovery,” declares the (slightly inaccurate) headline on io9. “’Tis the season to be pickling your liver in alcohol,” announces the (slightly irrelevant) opening line of a CNET article.
The researchers’ experiment—led by Keita Deguchi of the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan—involved first submersing an iron alloy in various hot alcoholic beverages, and then finding the temperature at which the treated alloy starts to display superconducting properties. A superconductor is a material that has no electrical resistivity, allowing electrons to flow through it with essentially zero friction.
The paper abstract, which was published on arXiv, gives an overview of the experiment’s findings and method (although there’s no mention of beverage consumption that might have inspired these scientific antics):
“We found that hot commercial alcohol drinks are much effective to induce superconductivity in FeTe0.8S0.2 compared to water, ethanol and water-ethanol mixture…. Any elements in alcohol drinks, other than water and ethanol, would play an important role to induce superconductivity.”
A new study out in the American Association of Wine Economist’s “Wine Economics” journal suggests that monogamous societies are bigger drinkers than those in polygamous societies. Does this mean that being stuck with only one partner drives us to the bottle, or does drinking make us more likely to settle down?
Actually the answer is most likely neither. Both monogamy and drunkenness seem to be related to economics, or at least, that’s why both seem to have blossomed during the industrial revolution. Jo Swinnen, one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times Freakonomics blog (which seemed to have missed the actual conclusion of the study) that he noticed the correlation over, unsurprisingly, a glass of wine:
The inspiration came from a casual observation (over a glass of wine) that the two social/religious groups that do allow polygamy ((parts of) Mormonism and Islam) also do not consume alcohol. So we wondered whether this was a coincidence or not.
While many studies have compared alcohol and cultural traits, this is the study to look at its relationship with polygamy. The researchers compared the marital style and “frequency of drunkenness” of 44 well-documented pre-industrial societies (24 of which were polygamous; 20 monogamous) and found that monogamy was indeed positively correlated with drunkenness. The paper (pdf) says:
Drunk fights are a typical occurrence at some bars–but why does drinking make us more likely to fight? Kate Shaw over at Ars Technica gives us a good example of a typical confrontation:
If you’ve ever had one (or ten) too many drinks at a bar, you’re probably familiar with this scenario: a drunk guy stumbles past you, spills a beer all over you, and you get angry. You’re convinced he did it on purpose, and you start fuming.
New research from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that this “thinking he did it on purpose” is because alcohol makes you likely to interpret someone’s actions as intentional rather than accidental. In a bar situation, this can translate to a conviction that an offending act was aimed specifically at you–great, so alcohol essentially brings out the paranoid narcissist in all of us.
By Katie Palmer
“Not all chemicals are bad,” wrote humor columnist Dave Barry. “Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.” Barry may have been right about the virtues of a cold one, but his description is missing a few chemicals: the proteins from beer’s other main ingredients, starch (often from barley) and yeast.
To better understand this intoxicating chemical recipe, researchers at the University of Milan have published an expanded proteome, or protein library, of their lager of choice in the Journal of Proteome Research. They used a method called combinatorial peptide ligand libraries, or CPLL, which involves running the beer through sticky beads to capture its proteins—even the ones that present at low levels. They turned up 20 proteins from barley, 40 from yeast and two from corn, a vast improvement on the previous proteome, which showed just 12 barley and two yeast proteins.
So is there any good reason for the art of beer brewing to become a science? According to the researchers, better knowledge of the proteins that survive brewing could help improve flavor, aroma, and retention of the foamy head so prized by beer drinkers. While brewmasters can control taste by using different starches, yeasts and varieties of hops, they could refine their craft even further by designing fermentation processes to increase or minimize the release of specific yeast proteins. Sounds good, just as long as they don’t expect anyone to wait around empty-glassed while they figure it out.
This article is provided by Scienceline, a project of New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program.
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Beef, butter sculptures, and people byproducts have made for some good biofuels. Now Scottish researchers are looking to whisky. Processing whisky waste–pot ale, the liquid in copper stills, and draff, leftovers from grain–researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have created butanol which they claim can provide 25 percent more energy per unit volume than ethanol, a more typical biofuel.
Martin Tangney, project director, told The Guardian that every country should use its own particular brand of waste instead of growing crops for biofuels:
“What people need to do is stop thinking ‘either or’; people need to stop thinking like for like substitution for oil. That’s not going to happen. Different things will be needed in different countries.”
In Scotland’s case those things include the leftovers from a stiff drink. The country’s estimated six billion dollar whisky industry produces 1,600 million liters of pot ale and 187,000 tons of draff annually. In America’s case, perhaps we should instead turn to human fat?
Sugar fermentation makes the conversion from leftovers to butanol possible, and researchers say cars could use the fuel without modifying their engines by using a mixture of butanol and gasoline.
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Image: flickr / foxypar4
“They not only drink alcohol, they prefer it over water,” Allison Anacker, a neuroscience graduate student at Oregon Health & Science University told The Oregonian.
Anacker, working under behavioral neuroscience professor Andrey Ryabinin, was looking for a model organism to study some humans’ troubled relationship with alcohol. Mice and rats fail in this role–it’s unusual to find ones that want even a sip of the stuff.
In a study published in Addiction Biology last month, Ryabinin’s team records the drunken misadventures of prairie voles. After chugging their preferred 6 percent alcohol drink (about the equivalent of beer), some thirsty voles shoved off parental responsibilities and even walked out on their mates. Though some drank responsibility, others drank to excess, stumbling away from the bar/spiked water bottle.
The study suggests that like humans, the voles also make drinking buddies, seemingly encouraging each other to have another. When caged together, the voles appear to match one another drink for drink, a practice that apparently has nothing to do with who’s buying the next round.
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Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Anticipated versus actual alcohol consumption during 21st birthday celebrations.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Beer Consumption Increases Human Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes.
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Pocket science – sperm races and poison-stealing voles
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Of voles and men: exploring the genetics of commitment
Image: flickr / Gilles Gonthier / field vole
Stolichnaya or Grey Goose, martinis shaken or stirred: Everybody’s got a preference. Vodka may not taste like much—in industry terms, it’s neutral—but any bartender can tell you about the fierce partisanship its different types inspire. This division among drinkers, a new study suggests, could be a result of slight differences in the vodkas’ molecular structure.
Vodka is about 60 percent water by volume, and 40 percent ethanol, an alcohol. The water and ethanol naturally mingle in such close quarters, and some of the molecules stick together in interesting ways.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and Moscow State University compared the chemical composition of five common brands—Belvedere, Grey Goose, Oval, Skyy, and Stolichnaya—to see if those water-ethanol groupings always happen the same way. They found that two of the vodkas had a higher concentration a certain cage-like chemical structure, in which five or so molecules of water surround each ethanol molecule. This difference, the researchers say, might explain our preferences for one brand over another. It’s even possible that the act of shaking a vodka martini breaks up those cage structures.
It’s not clear if such a subtle change in molecular make-up could affect taste, or even that those cage-like structures hold together long enough to have much of an impact at all. So for now, it may be wise to take this explanation with a grain of salt—and, while you’re at it, maybe a few olives.
– by Valerie Ross
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Image: flickr / paPisc